By Santo D. Banerjee
NEW YORK (IDN) – Hundreds of millions of people in civil society contribute to peace and justice every day, by public service, supporting thousands of public and private organizations, solid citizenship or leadership, and perhaps most importantly of all, by simply practicing peaceful behaviour in all situations.
However, in an era dominated by large organizations, whether governmental or private, individual contributions to social stability have their limitations. A new report says that companies can play a critical role in helping achieve particularly Goal 16 of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Countries adopted these goals on September 25, 2015, to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all as part of a new sustainable development agenda. Each goal has specific targets to be achieved over the next 15 years. According to the UN, for the goals to be reached, everyone needs to do their part: governments, the private sector, civil society and people.
“SDG 16 is not just about war, where governments have the greatest responsibility, but about violent conflict of every kind, ranging from domestic violence to military occupation, where the private sector has a great responsibility for sustainable social stability that is the indispensable pre-condition for peace,” says the report released on November 3 by the Sustainable Development Goals Fund (SDG Fund).
SDG 16 aims at not only preventing corruption, but also creating conditions that will lead to inclusive decision-making and improve the rule of law, adds the 63-page report titled Business and SDG 16: Contributing to peaceful, just and inclusive societies.
The SDG Fund issued the study in collaboration with its Private Sector Advisory Group (PSAG), Pennsylvania University Law School and with the legal specialized support from the law firm McDermott Will & Emery. This research examines how Sustainable Development Goal 16 (peace, justice and strong institutions) is relevant to the private sector and offers perspectives on the link between peace and the development agenda.
This is the third report prepared by the SDG Fund with the support of PSAG, focusing on the role of the private sector in creating and sustaining momentum towards the implementation of the SDGs. The 2015 report identified opportunities for private sector engagement with the UN and a framework for action for both large and small companies, while the 2016 report examined the universality of the 2030 Agenda from a private sector perspective.
Rule of law and private sector
The latest report serves as a practical guide for sharing best practices on how the private sector can incorporate SDG 16 – which focuses on building peaceful, just and inclusive societies – into business planning. It shows how an effective legal framework can help the private sector build trust with the public and civil society, and details the role of business in creating conditions that would improve areas such as corporate social responsibility, governance, transparency and accountability.
The report includes illustrations of success stories and case studies from around the world. For example, the report presents national initiatives that have contributed to fight corruption in different contexts such as Cambodia, Lebanon, Zambia, Uzbekistan, India and United Kingdom.
Companies from the SDG Fund’s Private Sector Advisory Group are also working to prevent corruption by instituting a zero-tolerance policy and implementing a reporting system for potential compliance violations. A number of leading companies in Colombia are collaborating to integrate thousands of small farmers in high-conflict areas into their supply chain in order to help create jobs as well as support reconciliation efforts.
“While the notion of peace and justice is complex, this report takes a deep dive in examining the private sector’s important role in eliminating corruption and promoting the rule of law,” said Paloma Duran, Director of the SDG Fund. “It shows that companies have a vital role in promoting stability in the countries they work in, as well as improving conditions needed to build stronger institutions and communities.”
With implementation of the 17 SDGs now underway, the report captures the range of activities business is undertaking to help achieve SDGs and promote peaceful societies. For example, in order to help work towards sustainable development, there must be a focus on conflict prevention, as well as addressing the root causes of conflict, ensuring the rule of law, and supporting strong and accountable institutions.
Companies have many opportunities to advance SDG 16
One of the main conclusions of the report is that the private sector tends to view SDG 16 as primarily in the realm of governmental actors, or as a concern mostly linked to conflict areas. Therefore, the report observes the need to identify focal points for businesses to engage in achieving SDG 16.
Companies that support SDG 16 often focus on preventing corruption and eliminating corporate behaviors that can have negative outcomes in peace. But the private sector must also support and enable conditions that will allow inclusive decision-making, foster outspoken opposition to corruption, and improve support for the rule of law.
The report includes input from private sector leaders from the SDG Fund’s Private Sector Advisory Group which provide insight into how companies are working to address complex issues of governance and accountability. Company case studies highlight the value of the SDGs and demonstrate the importance of interventions in promoting access to justice and consolidation of peace through targeted support.
The report also examines the unique experience of the SDG Fund working with the private sector as partner in several countries, including Colombia, Bangladesh, Côte d’Ivoire, occupied Palestinian territory and Sierra Leone, where strategic partnerships have been effective in stabilizing communities through job creation and income-generating activities for youth and women.
The launch featured a dialogue by representatives of the UN, governments, academia and university. This included María Emma Mejía, Colombia’s Ambassador to the UN; Ana Maria Menéndez, Senior Advisor of the UN Secretary-General on Policy; Rangita da Silva, Associate Dean of Penn Law; Sol Beatriz Arango, President of Servicios Nutresa, a leading Colombian company; Carla Mucavi, Director of the Food and Agriculture Organization in New York and Paloma Duran, Director of the SDG Fund.
The SDG Fund is already working in 23 countries with a variety of stakeholders. Created in 2014, with an initial contribution of the government of Spain, it is the first interagency UN mechanism working to implement SDGs programs at the country level.
The SDG Fund works to establish greater collaboration among UN agencies and to bring business into the forefront of the developmental agenda. A number of successful multi-stakeholder partnerships are now underway, building the case for deepening the engagement with new actors, especially the private sector. [IDN-InDepthNews – 5 November 2017]
Photo credit: SDG Fund
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